Mary Cairncross BioBlitz recognised as finalist in sustainability awards
  • Wednesday 23 October 2019

Mycologist Dr Sandra Tuszynska takes a photo of a species within the canopy of a strangler fig tree in the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve. 

In an Australian first, Sunshine Coast Council’s Mary Cairncross BioBlitz saw scientists, artists, Traditional Owners and volunteers hoisted up into the rainforest’s canopy to conduct biodiversity conservation research.

Recognising this unique take on a bioblitz initiative, which are usually conducted at ground-level, the Banksia Foundation recently recognised the Mary Cairncross BioBlitz as a Finalist in their annual Banksia Sustainability Awards.

While the vertical surveying activity was definitely unique, council’s BioBlitz also strongly aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Environment Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay explained that the international Sustainable Development Goals are key criteria in judging the Banksia Awards.

“One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals addresses ‘Life on Land’ and is about protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystem,” Cr McKay said.

“Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is already known as an incredibly significant terrestrial ecosystem, and yet, the BioBlitz helped us identify a range of previously unrecorded species for the reserve.

“Through these discoveries and collaborative work with our Survey Team partners, we can now better manage and protect these diverse species more effectively.

“I’m so proud of our remarkable BioBlitz Survey Team, all the volunteers, and the community that engaged with this ground-breaking program.

“This Banksia Award Finalist recognition is icing on the cake of what was already an incredibly successful scientific and cultural surveying experience.”

Over the four-day program in March earlier this year, 13 scientists across seven taxonomic groups surveyed species found from the understorey to emergent canopy of five strangler fig trees.

Six artists undertook creative research, developing visual responses to the emerging biodiversity data, and Jinibara Traditional Owners shared their knowledge and perspectives with the Survey Team and community alike. 

More than 250 people participated in programmed activities, including bat detective walks, pademelon population surveys, botanical printmaking and a number of other public engagement opportunities, all aimed at raising the community’s appreciation for the reserve’s biodiversity values.

Cr McKay shared her excitement for the future of the Mary Cairncross BioBlitz.

“The Banksia Sustainability Awards, which are regarded as the most prestigious and longest-running in Australia, will be held on December 3, 2019,” Cr McKay said.

“While our beloved BioBlitz may gain further recognition, which I believe it deserves, this program already achieved such a broad range of positive outcomes for both the biodiversity of the rainforest and for our community at large.

“Because of this, council is already in preliminary consultations to develop the next interdisciplinary citizen science event.”

For more information about council’s Mary Cairncross BioBlitz and the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, please visit council’s website,

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve (MCSR) biodiversity facts:

  • The reserve is a 55ha remnant rainforest on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. A subtropical lowland rainforest ecosystem, it is predominantly Complex Notophyll Vine Forest.

  • MCSR contains communities listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘of concern’ under the Vegetation Management Act (VMA 1999).

  • It is significant habitat for 141 bird species and 68 species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, eight of which are listed as ‘near threatened’ and ‘threatened’ in the Nature Conservation Act (NCA 1992) and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC 1999).

  • MCSR is home to 391 flora species, including seven listed as ‘rare,’ ‘vulnerable’ and ‘near threatened’ under the NCA, EPBC and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

  • The reserve is critical habitat for the multitude of lifeforms that survive within its boundaries, but is also a significant bank for genetic diversity in the broader regional ecosystem.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve and its Rainforest Discovery Centre have won the following awards:

  • Excellence in Innovation  Award, Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, 2017 (Sunshine Coast Council)

  • Economic Development Initiatives over 15,000 Residents Award, Economic Development Australia, 2017 (Sunshine Coast Council)

  • Regional Award for Excellence in Energy Efficiency and Environmental Management, State Award for Excellence in Energy Efficiency and Environmental Management, Regional Award for Tourism and Leisure Facilities up to $10 million, State Award for Tourism and Leisure Facilities up to $10 million, Master Builders Queensland, 2017 (Hutchinson Builders)

  • Queensland Tourism Award, Australian institute of Landscape Architects, 2017 (Guymer Bailey Architects)

  • Design and or Construction of a local Government/Public Works Project: Projects $2 Million to $5 Million, IPWEAQ Awards, 2018 (Sunshine Coast Council)

  • Harry Marks Award for Sustainable Architecture (Queensland State), Australian institute of Architects, 2018 (Guymer Bailey Architects and Norman Richards Building Design + Interiors)

  • Commercial Interiors, Building Designers Association of Queensland, 2019 (Norman Richards Building Design + Interiors)

  • Excellence in Project Innovation, Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, 2019 (Sunshine Coast Council)